Thomas Tuchel suggested Romelu Lukaku gives Chelsea "another dimension" after the club's £97.5m (€113m) striker scored on his first appearance after re-signing in Sunday's 2-0 cruise at Arsenal.
That defeat intensified the already considerable pressure on a defiant Mikel Arteta, whose side – admittedly weakened by Covid – have not only lost their first two games of the season but are still to score a goal.
Not that Arsenal's manager appeared daunted by a fairly comprehensive home defeat also featuring a goal from the excellent Reece James. "I see a team that never gave up," said Arteta, whose new £50m central defensive signing from Brighton, Ben White, was not available to mark Lukaku after testing positive.Along with Willian, Alexandre Lacazette and Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, White was one of a quartet of key Arsenal players sidelined by a virus which left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only fit enough for a starting place on the bench as Tuchel's team burnished their title credentials.
“Chelsea were the better team,” acknowledged Arteta, whose side were booed off and surely cannot afford too many more defeats. “When they play at their best, which they did today, they are the champions of Europe. They have world-class players and to match that level is difficult but my team never gave up. Our attitude was exceptional.
“We were missing nine big, big, players and I see a lot of positives. It’s a difficult moment but I saw a good reaction to falling behind. My team are playing with a lot of courage. They are trying their best.”
It is only the third time Arsenal have lost the first two matches of a season and their manager could almost certainly do without the trip to Manchester City on Saturday. Nonetheless Arteta presented a determinedly brave face to the outside world. “Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help,” he said. “You have to win football matches but I think that everyone can see that, at the moment, we don’t have the squad we want and it seems to be more difficult by the day.
“My young players are giving their maximum but you cannot ask the fans to be patient. They want to see the team winning – that’s passion and the way it should be. But it’s difficult.
“I don’t think this club in their history have faced something like this but we have to face this challenge. The league table is not decided in August and the worst thing we can do is throw in the towel. We are certainly not going to do that.”
At least Arsenal will not have to face Lukaku and Chelsea every week. "Romelu's a very smart guy and a very democratic leader," said Tuchel after watching a centre-forward who began his career at Stamford Bridge transform his team into title contenders. "He was dangerous throughout. There's room for improvement and we need to work on details but it was a very good debut. He linked up very well with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz.
“I certainly think that nobody likes to play against him, everyone is aware of his physicality and his link-up play and ability to attack the space. He gives another dimension to our game.
He’s got the whole package; he was always a Chelsea fan whose dream was to make it here.
“It was a perfect start. We didn’t concede a goal and we have two victories. It is a London derby, it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Tuchel dismissed suggestions that James suffered a second-half concussion.
“He wasn’t unconscious at all,” he said. “He was worried he’d broken a tooth. That’s why he looked shocked.” - Guardian